Founded in 1854 in Santa Clara Valley, Mirassou was once a venerable name in California. Having been farmers and bulk wine producers for four generations, the family in 1966 turned to bottling wines from their own vineyards and entering the competitive lists of the state’s growing wine industry. These efforts were not always successful, yet particularly in the white wine area, with gewurztraminer; “White Burgundy,” made from pinot blanc; and the “Harvest Reserve” chardonnay, the Mirassou family could be proud of its achievement. I tried many of these wines in the 1980s, including this Mirassou Harvest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1979 from Monterey County. As you can see from the label, the winery made 3,000 cases of the wine.

We drank this bottle on Dec. 9 and 10, 1984. I paid $10 for it. My notes read thus:

“Interesting and complex. Deep ruby color; tannic, fruity nose, hints of herbs and flowers; quite a mouthful, almost thick — very complex, almost puzzling, many layers of fruit and spicy, sappy nuance with, at the bottom, a provocative level of what CDK [my son, 17 at the time] called ‘cherry gasoline.’ Long finish. Perhaps not to everyone’s taste.”

“Cherry gasoline,” indeed, way to go, my boy, and surely not to the taste of anyone with a nose and palate for real cabernet sauvignon. A noble failure at five years after harvest? Or just a weird anomaly or indication of how erratic the winemaking could be at Mirassou?

In any case, Gallo bought the brand and the inventory in 2003, and the cheap Mirassou wines are now made in Modesto.